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Santiago Weekend Trips: Cajon del Maipo Part 1

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Cajon del Maipo
Today on Wanderful Wednesday, I’m going to be talking about one of my favorite weekend trips outside of Santiago so far, the region of Cajón del Maipo!
The area of Cajón del Maipo begins just 25km southeast of the city of Santiago, but feels as though it’s worlds away. Without straying too far from the bustling urban capital, you are able to leave behind the bright lights, loud horns and thick lingering layer of smog to clear your system with pure mountain air and reacquaint yourself with wonders of nature.
This picturesque valley nestled along the foothills of the Andean Mountain range encloses the Maipo River Baisin and boasts dramatic natural landscapes of sprawling vineyards, colorful orchards and snowcapped summits. It has become a popular weekend destination for tourists and Santiaguinos looking to take a needed break and escape the hustle and bustle of hectic city life.
Along the one main road twisting and turning through the canyon, you’ll find plenty of quaint hostels, campsites and cabins to choose from, while passing through small remote communities with inviting roadside eateries and stands advertising fresh local produce and homemade delicacies like bread and honey.
Aside from camping, relaxing and taking in the surrounding scene, the area also has much to offer in the way of adventure tourism, such as hiking, climbing, cycling, horseback riding, rafting, skiing and more!
Cajón del Maipo
Up until now, I’ve only had sufficient time to explore a few parts of this expansive valley, but come spring I see myself becoming a regular among the weekend Cajón-crowd.
Since it’s been a bit difficult finding information on the different attractions and activities available in Cajón (especially in English), I figured I’d share what I’ve learned so far from my personal experience!
Today I’ll be covering two of Cajón del Maipo’s many attractions: Glacier El Morado & Embalse de Yeso.

Glacier Colgante Morado

The trek to Glacier Colgante El Morado, in English- the hanging glacier, was fairly challenging, but the spectacular views throughout and the reward at the end were more than worth it! The path to the glacier was long and a bit strenuous, but actually the hardest part of this hike was first finding where the route began! The route to this glacier is pretty unknown and somewhat of a secret among locals, giving it the nickname “The Hidden Glacier.”
I attempted this hike a few months back when one of my friends was visiting from the States. After a lot of online research and asking multiple of my local-hiker-friends for help, we finally got the general gist of how to get there and decided to just go for it.
It turns out that finding the route really wasn’t so bad after all and was completely doable! We may have gotten stuck in a bit of a mini blizzard during our trek, but it was all part of the experience. The hike to Glacier El Morado remains one of my favorites in the Santiago area!
Glacier El Morado
Cajón del Maipo- unknown glacier
Want to give this hike a try? How to get there and other practical information on Glacier El Morado coming very soon! There’s so much to know that this trek deserves it’s own post!

Embalse de Yeso

If you’re making the journey to Cajón del Maipo, DO NOT miss the chance to visit Embalse de Yeso. This stunning water reserve, holding over 250 million cubic centimeters of water, is seriously one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.. in my life!
When you first arrive at the reserve, you will see this:
I know, it’s pretty incredible. But, don’t stop, keep on going! The view only gets better and better as you go!
When my friends and I visited back at the end of April, the long dirt road running along the reservoir was partially blocked by a recent rock fall, so we were forced to park our car near the beginning, climb over the blockage and walk a ways to get to the good stuff. We threw on our backpacks, stuffed them with wine and snacks and set off to see what else the Embalse had to offer.
We passed several groups of picnickers leisurely lounging and enjoying the views, and couldn’t help but wonder if there was much else to be seen. Still, without any other set plans for the day, we decided to continue on.
After a bit of time trudging down the long gravel road, we came to a bend. We eagerly turned the corner and… cue jaw drop. We were not at all prepared for what was waiting on the other side…
I know this sounds super cliché and all, but it literally sucked the air right out of my gut- the definition of breathtaking. I froze in my tracks for a few seconds and found it hard to form any kind of words. One of my friends actually gave in to her emotions and shed a quick tear. I mean, the view was pretty damn astounding, so we all let that one slide.
If you are able to continue on even further, all the way at the end of road some 20km down, you will find the scenic natural hot springs called “Termas del Plomo.” In the spring and summer months you can pay a small fee to take a dip in these little rustic pools which contain runoff from San Jose Volcano. Unfortunately, since our car could not pass, we were unable to make it that far, but I’ve heard great things and intend to get back ASAP!
*Note: Parque del Yeso is a private park. During high travel times, particularly in summer, there is an entry fee of 5,000 pesos per person. In the winter months, when the trip is less popular and harder to make, it is possible that they will not be regulated.

How to get to Cajón del Maipo from Santiago

There are several ways to get to Cajón del Maipo from the city of Santiago.

  • Book a Tour: If you decide to book a day tour, most include transport, accounting for the hefty price. Some companies that offer tours with transportation are: Montaña Nativa, EcoChile Travel, AndoAndes and Stamps Tour
  • Public Transportation: There are several buses available for transfer between Santiago and San Jose del Maipo, but they usually only run regularly during the summer months. For schedules and prices:
    • MetroBus MB-72 operated by TurMaipo from Bellavista de La Florida (Metrostation Line-5)
    • Turismontaña from Plaza Italia or Baquedano (metro lines 1 & 5)
  • Rent a Car: My preferred method of getting to Cajón del Maipo would be renting a car. If you’re going with a group, this will give you more freedom to explore once in the area and in the long run will save you money on taxis or booking a bunch of pricey tours. I’ve used the company Chilean Rent A Car several times now and have received great service and very reasonable prices!

IMG_9472 (1)

Tips for visiting Cajón del Maipo

  • Bring cash! The area of Cajón del Maipo is pretty remote and past the hub of San Jose del Maipo, you will not find any ATMs. Many places will also not accept credit or debit cards and are cash only.
  • Register your trip with the “Carabineros” at the Detention Center of San Gabriel. It’s always a good idea to register your hikes, treks and adventures for safety reasons.
  • Bring your own food and alcohol. If you’re on a budget, bring along food and drinks. Past the town of San Jose del Maipo you will only come across sparse mini-markets where you’ll pay an arm and a leg for a limited variety of goods.
  • Bring layers. The weather and temperatures in the valley are very unpredictable and can change in an instant. During the day it will most likely be warm and sunny, but be prepared for temperatures to plummet at night! Some kind of precipitation is also very likely.
  • I’d suggest avoiding Cajón del Maipo all together during the height of the winter months. Although a strikingly beautiful scene, during periods of rain and snow, the roads can get very dangerous! Consider yourself warned…

More tips on where to stay, what to eat and more Cajón del Maipo attractions coming soon!
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What do you like to do on the weekends? What are some of your favorite weekend trips?

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